A powerful bomb exploded Wednesday in the parking lot of a luxury hotel in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, killing at least four people and injuring at least nine others, police said.
Security forces rushed to the Serena Hotel and no one was allowed to approach the blast site. Police said rescuers transported the victims to nearby hospitals. Filming on Pakistani news channels showed cars on fire.
Hours after the attack, the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility in a statement, saying it was a suicide attack. The Pakistani Taliban or Pakistan Tehreek-e-Taliban is an insurgent group separate from the Afghan Taliban.
Senior police official Azhar Akram said officers were trying to determine if the bomb had been planted in a vehicle parked in the hotel parking lot. He did not provide further details, saying the police are still investigating. Other security officials said the bomb exploded minutes after a car entered the parking lot, and authorities were investigating to determine whether it was a suicide attack.
Wasim Beg, a spokesman for the provincial health department, said four people had died and 12 were injured in the bombing.
It was unclear who was behind the attack. The southwestern province of Balutchistan is the scene of a long-running insurgency by secessionist groups such as the Balochistan Liberation Front and the Balutchistan Liberation Army. For decades, they have organized attacks to express their demands for independence. The Taliban group and the Pakistani Islamic State also have a presence there.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in the provincial capital.
Pakistan’s interior minister, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, quickly blamed neighboring India for the hotel bombing, although he did not provide evidence to support the accusation. He told a Pakistani Geo news channel that Pakistan had only one enemy and was a neighbor of India, which he claimed was behind the bombing. Ahmed said they had received information about possible attacks in the capital, Islamabad and elsewhere and the information was shared with the competent authorities to strengthen security.
Liaquat Shahwani, a provincial government spokesman, called the attack an act of terrorism. “Terrorists want to disrupt the peace in Balutchistan. Those who do not want to see progress and prosperity in the province of Baluchistan are responsible for this act of terrorism. “
Balochistan’s prime minister, Jam Kamal Khan, took to Twitter to condemn the bombing. Pakistan’s intelligence minister, Fawad Chaudhry, said authorities were investigating and a statement would be issued later.
Baluchistan’s interior minister Ziaullah Langove said Chinese Ambassador Nong Rong was staying at the hotel at the time of the bombing, but it was unclear what was the reason for the attack. He said no guests were injured, but a police officer was among four people killed in the attack.
The hotel is frequented by foreigners, as it is the only luxury hotel in the city and is considered safe.
Arbab Kamran Kasi, a doctor at Quetta Main Hospital, said about a dozen injured were brought in and declared an emergency at the hospital to deal with the victims.
The Quetta bombing came hours after Pakistan and neighboring Iran opened a new border crossing in Baluchistan to improve trade and economic relations. Baluchistan borders Iran and Afghanistan.
The Pakistani Taliban has targeted the military and civilians across the country since 2001, when the Islamic nation joined the US-led war on terror following the September 11 attack in the United States. Since then, insurgents have declared war on the Pakistani government and carried out numerous attacks. Pakistan’s militant groups are often interconnected with those across the border in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has almost completed a fence along the border with Afghanistan, which Islamabad says is necessary to prevent attacks by militants on both sides. Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan often accuse each other of turning a blind eye to Islamic militants operating along the porous border.